Act of Wine’s new Collingwood shop occupies a modest shopfront on Wellington Street, and beyond a few posters between shelves, it’s pretty minimally decorated. Simple wood-and-wire shelving holds one or two examples of each wine, backed by neutral walls.
This simple palette is the perfect blank canvas for their range of natural wines, a bright, bold spectrum of coloured bottles, running from electric pink to hazy gold, their labels wilder still. The aesthetic appeal of Act of Wine is the first thing that’ll hit you, but for owners Sam Fitzsimmons and Andrew Crompton there’s much more at play.
The original Act of Wine opened in Southbank last year next to Crompton’s other venture, Broad Bean Organic Grocer. Broad Bean’s principles heavily informed Act of Wine’s first shop, and that’s carrying through to the Collingwood store now, too.
“We’re following the same values,” says Fitzsimmons. “[The wines] are all derived from sustainable agriculture – so, organic and biodynamic farming – eliminating any kind of chemical intervention aside from a little bit of sulphur. They’re not clarified with any animal derivatives either. They’re all vegan friendly.”
But limiting environmental impact doesn’t mean a limited choice. Fitzsimmons oversees a tight list of mostly independent Australian producers making smart, bright and flavoursome drops. Expect to be bombarded by interesting styles including the rustic, fantastically-coloured petillant-naturel – more commonly known as pet-nat – an ancient, sparkling-style wine that predates champagne. There are also hazy, juicy orange wines (made from white grapes with the skins left on – imparting colour, flavour and texture – also known as skin-contact), as well as more traditional regional styles and blends that have been responsibly produced.
As Fitzsimmons takes me through his favourites, he moves quickly from bottle to bottle, reeling off winemakers and subregions. It’s clear as he pulls up at a gold-coloured pet-nat that Aussie producers drive a good deal of his enthusiasm.
“Gareth Belton makes fantastic wines with Gentle Folk in the Adelaide Hills. He does the Rainbow Juice. They’re really clean, really approachable,” he says. “There are tonnes of amazing Australian winemakers, and that’s one of the big things about having this store – getting to showcase them.”
Other interesting locals include a fresh stonefruit-driven white from Heathcote’s Momento Mori; Poolside, a spicy shiraz from Tom Shobbrook in the Barossa Ranges, and a grenache-syrah blend – which Fitzsimmons describes as having Campari-like notes – from Chateau Acid in NSW’s Central Ranges. There are plenty of Europeans in the mix too, in classic styles including a well-structured syrah from the Rhone Valley, or a French gamay. There’s also a handful of low-alcohol wines, such as piquette, which is a lightly sparkling style that’s around 4.5 per cent alcohol and destined to compete with beer for easy summer drinking.
If you can’t make it in, Fitzsimmons and Crompton have a natural-wine delivery service of the same name, where a wine panel of industry pros convene each month and decide which drops go into the subscription packs. In the past, that’s included former Noma sommelier James Audas (who now runs a wine import business called Lo-Fi), Liz Carey (who was behind the wine program at MoVida for six years), importer Ryan Larkin and Jay Comeskey, who co-founded the now-closed Town Mouse.
Elsewhere in the shop, you’ll find a small selection of spirits and beer that covers popular classics and more interesting finds. There’s a smattering of amaro, bourbon and gin, featuring locals such as the award-winning Four Pillars, and beers run from a breezy Mediterranean Ichnusa lager to a lemon meringue sour from Gippsland’s Sailor’s Grave.
Act of Wine
Shop 2/73–77 Wellington Street, Collingwood
0431 395 681
Mon to Wed 11am–7pm
Thu to Sat 11am–8pm